I own a video games shop, which I mostly go to on Sundays. Afterall, it is the only time I am free from my usual day job. It is also one of the days that the shop is highly packed with customers, most of whom are youthful and in the adolescent bracket. Even though it is a shop meant for video gaming, it has become by happy coincidence, a chill spot where customers interact, share stories and show off their ‘Sunday best’.
I do learn a lot on Sundays; From the latest in the entertainment scene, neighbourhood gossip, to playful banter, and even very inspirational aspirations by these young folks. Sometimes, I think it is the only reason I go to work on Sundays.
It is important to mention that I am not too far removed from my customers’ age bracket, even though they sometimes treat me like a fossil. That, coupled with my open and welcoming nature, enables them to let me jump in and out of their conversations occasionally.
Yesterday, like many other Sundays, one of the conversations was about sex. The only difference is that I learnt something new. It is actually what made me jump into their conversation, which I mostly avoid, especially when the topic is sex. It is actually in part why I have chosen to write to you.
After moments of listening, I decided to cheekily ask them why they dawned their Sunday best and went to church, only to come and talk about sex. They laughed it off and looked at me like the fossil I was. However, given that my line of questioning bordered on their seemingly most favorite topic, I ended up getting quite a few answers and ‘schooled’ in the process.
“Leo ni Sunday (Today is Sunday),” one of them replied. I then thought to myself, “Of course, it’s Sunday, that’s why I am at the shop.” So, I looked at them more inquisitively. I then got a rude awakening from the next reply. The kids dress up alright, but not for church as I had initially thought. They dress up for sex dates. They actually call it ‘Sex Sunday’ – Yes, it is a thing!
Comparatively, Sunday is the one day where there is usually the most limited parental or adult availability, and thus supervision in most households. This is because most are usually either in church, shopping, or any other external preparations, for the coming week. This is when the young ones who mostly elect to stay behind, take advantage to ‘play adults.’
Upon that realization, I decided to question further. “Do you guys have protected sex? How many sexual partners do each of you have?” At this point, they had lost all shyness and were answering me with all manner of bravado. “Protected sex is for amateurs,” they said, without knowing that they were the real amateurs and at best, misinformed. They also went on to brag about the different ‘escapades’ they have each had with multiple partners. I know some were lying, but there is always some form of truth.
It is no wonder I was not really shocked when the new HIV infection statistics were reported yesterday evening, on Tv. 15-28-year olds accounted for more than half of the new infections in 2020, Nairobi being one of the most affected counties. This is according to the National Aids Control Council (NACC).
Based on my guests’ answers, it was only natural that they also knew nothing about the HIV stats in the country. I immediately took it upon myself to show them the 2019 stats through my phone. They were shocked.
I know that they will not necessarily abstain from sex. However, I sure do hope that those stats will be enough to hinder them from unprotected sex.
In conclusion, I think parents and adults need to do more. Not only in terms of supervision, but also guidance. I know in ‘my days’ sex was a taboo topic, but it is time we embrace it. The risks of not embracing the topic far outweigh the discomfort.
Liz Otaye is a Strategic Partnerships Specialist based in Nairobi; Kenya.